As you could follow on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, the last two weeks I spent in Vienna. Vienna is a city that holds a special place in my heart. For one I grew up, went to school and spent the most of my adolescence there. And then visiting Vienna during the Christmas time is nothing short of magic.
Throughout the years the Christmas decoration has gotten more pompous than the year before. And now one finds themselves in a fairy tale of Christmas trees, big ornaments and chandeliers. The high amount of Christmas markets, called lovingly “Christkindmarkt” only adds to the magic.
Christmas decoration in Vienna
Usually when I am in Vienna, I spend my time hanging out with old friends and family. Though always an experience, I never look at my time in Vienna as exceptional in any sense. After all I know the town so well, every corner of it has a memory. But this time I thought I’ll explore Vienna as a tourist, in order to be able to share the town that I love so much with you.
A city of almost two million inhabitants, Vienna has the second largest number of German speakers only after Berlin. Vienna also is the host to many international organizations, including the United Nations, OPEC and OSCE.
The city’s existence goes back to Celts and Romans, developing later to a Medieval and Baroque city and finally to the capital of the Habsburg monarchy. Vienna is famous for its music, housing the Vienna State Opera House, as well as being home to almost every known composer between the great age of Viennese Classicism to the 20th century. It also is home to the psychoanalysis, founded and practiced by Dr. Sigmund Freud.
The world famous Sacher Torte with Kaffee Mélange
When you are in Vienna, you can rest assured that you will have the best cake and coffee in the whole wide world. After all the café culture belongs to Vienna, like the Big Ben to London. There are numerous coffee places all over town and it is hard to decide to which one you want to go. There is a wide range, from Demel, over Café Landtmann to Sacher, you can’t do any wrong.
Demel Christmas Decoration
I would also recommend to go to Café Diglas, as well as Café Sperl. There are many more, all of them still presenting the old imperial times when the court confectioners (k.u.k – kaiserlich und königlich, meaning imperial and royal) supplied the Imperial House of Habsburg.
The Christmas Markets, nowadays making an appearance world wide, have a long tradition in Austria. Every town has plenty of them. In Vienna, the most famous and biggest one is at the Rathausplatz (City Hall Square), but one should not miss the one at Spittelberg in the Viennese 7th district, as well as the one at Karlskirche or at the Imperial Palace Schönbrunn. There are many smaller ones all over town. Not only children get to be happy with candy, but also grown-ups enjoy a glass of Punsch (good old glogg) as well as explore the handcrafted products.
When you think of Vienna, it is kind of synonymous with culture. Art, architecture, performance art, music,.. Looking back I am really happy I grew up there, since all of it would become a part of me. Whether it was learning how to play the piano from Bach to Mozart, or attending the Elmayer Etiquette and Manners school for young ladies and gents at the tender age of 15, going with my parents to the Opera, theaters and museums and finally studying architecture in Vienna. All of that contributed to who I am today. A frequent visitor of cultural establishments anywhere in the world, I was happy to do that again this time in Vienna.
The Albertina is located at the Palais Archduke Albrecht, a historic residence of the Habsburgs, just across the Vienna Opera, the very center of Vienna. The name Albertina refers to Albert Casimir, the Duke of Saxony-Teschen, son-in-law of Empress Maria Theresia, who founded the collection in Pressburg in 1776, where he was the representative of Maria Theresia for the Kingdom of Hungary. The collection comprises around one million drawings and prints from the Renaissance to the present. Since the museum acquired the Batliner collection as a loan in 2007, part of the exhibition space is no longer used for the presentation of the graphic collection, but for a permanent exhibition of classical modernism: “Monet to Picasso. The Batliner Collection”. I went to see another exhibition though, “Ways of Pointillism”, which displays works by Seurat, Signac and Van Gogh.
At the Albertina Terrace across the Vienna State Opera. – The obligatory blogger photo.
Another cultural establishment that I can highly recommend is the MQ – Museumsquartier Wien. Hosting four major museums, the Leopold Museum, Kunsthalle, Museum of Modern Art and the Austrian Architecture Museum, accompanied by even greater restaurants and food, and an exceptional book store, one never gets bored and could easily spend the whole day.
At the #moma.
Vienna has come a long way. From a traditional and quite protected city of the 1980s and 1990s, it used its tradition as a protection shield from the world, not wanting to compete with it, thinking it is special as it is with its music and opera and the glorious past of the Habsburgs. Using its status of strict neutrality, Austria was able to accumulate lots of wealth in the post war time and Vienna as an international city, hosting many international organizations, it was always attractive to the big investors, especially from the Middle East. Back in the time though the city was inhabited mostly by the elderly and the town was beautiful but sleepy. Just like a museum. 30 years later, with the opening of borders, new life came to Vienna and the city started to keep pace with the changing trends in the world. Still loyal to its tradition, but at the same time keeping up with the world, the city is in the process of transforming itself to a real global city with lots of benefits. I am happy to call Vienna my home.